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Connect, Collaborate, Create

Digital is no longer a way for organisations to get ahead in business, it's now this only way to stay in business. We look into the trends and technologies which are driving this change.

4 min

Internet of everything ignites innovation



Internet of everything ignites innovation

Leading Australian business people, demographers and technologists explain why the shift into digital is producing vast new opportunities for the world’s smallest continent.

In the past 15 years the digital technology revolution has turned the global economy on its head, opening up new business opportunities, creating new markets, transforming business models and workplaces, challenging legacy industries and changing consumer and social behaviours.


The great digital paradigm shift, and not for the first time in the history of business, means the future belongs to the nimble, the visionary and the innovative – and to Australian business, according to leading demographer and Adjunct Professor from Curtin University Business School Bernard Salt.

“I’m very positive about Australia’s future,” Salt says. “We are 24 million people with the resources of an entire continent, we should be a prosperous people for a hundred years. We simply need to be innovative and in fact create our own jobs of the future, and I think technology can actually deliver those new businesses, new occupations of the future.”

Networked and nimble

The jobs of tomorrow will be enabled by and dependent upon excellent networking infrastructure, according to Christopher Smith, director of Telstra’s Managed Network Services Practice. Networking, according to Smith, is a bit like our arteries, we all use it every day, but it’s so deeply embedded in the technology stack that we rarely think about it. Nonetheless Smith points out that well designed networks boost the capacity of business to seize emerging opportunities to provide workplace flexibility, increasing talent pools and address diversity issues, factors that have been shown to drive innovation, employee engagement and productivity.

More flexible workplaces and work practices, companies scaling up or down and moving in and out of markets and geographic locations, and the rise of the digital customer are just some of the factors “driving a dynamic network requirement” in business, Smith says.

Add to this the impact of the cloud and software collaboration tools and “dynamic” is truly the operative word. But if this sounds imposing, Smith only sees opportunity at a time when the network is becoming software driven and opened up to application developers to create value tailored to each enterprise.

“What we are seeing now is the network equivalent of what the enterprise software market went through,” Smith says. “We’re about to see a massive shift and acceleration in innovation in the network space, which means more agility and a greater ability to innovate for businesses.”

Business grows from data flows

A consequence of the proliferation of digital networks connecting businesses, supply chains, consumers and workplaces is the massive flow of data, which in turn has created new business opportunities. Having moved beyond the “internet of things”, networking powerhouse Cisco is now using the term “internet of everything” (IOE), to refer to the information that flows from the networked connection of people, data, processes, devices and applications.

Vice-president and chief technology officer for Cisco’s IOE Vertical Solution Team, Aglaia Kong, says the challenge for business leaders is to understand the disruptive impact – as well as the opportunities – that will emerge from IOE.

Not acting on the cascade of data flowing through and around businesses is no longer an option. “Business leaders need to be mindful of what is coming – if they don’t do something about it, their company will be displaced or will cease to exist,” Kong warns.


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Old is new again

Manufacturing, an industry that is feeling the pressure of a global economy in realignment, could find that the combination of technology, such as 3D printing, and consumer data becomes a lifeline. By integrating their production to customer demand, manufacturers will be able to change from producing thousands of the same product to custom-building for each customer or customer segment.

“In this kind of environment, if you don’t leverage IOE data, then your business is going to be captured by your more innovative competitors,” Kong says.

Trucking meets technology

Chief executive and co-founder of Sydney-based digital marketplace Freight Exchange, Cate Hull, is an entrepreneur who has harnessed data to drive her innovative business. Freight Exchange collects data from long-haul freight companies’ trucks and connects shippers with carriers that have excess space in their trucks.

“Our model is very much about the sharing economy,” Hull says. “We fill empty trucks. With one in four or five semi-trailers driving on the road empty, we saw a big opportunity to use technology to share the whereabouts of empty capacity and fill that capacity, driving better efficiencies in the process.”

FreightExchange launched in April and plans to move into air freight later this year.

“I see that we could become a clearing house for freight,” Hull says. “What we want to do is create a single platform where you can move a container from Hangzhou in China through to Dubbo in NSW at the click of a button.”

Infrastructure enables innovation

Ultimately it’s the underlying network infrastructure that enables innovators such as Hull to take skills from one industry, and apply them to another and thus thrive in the constantly evolving digital economy.

“If you are flexible, if you are fluid, if you are agile, if you are social, if you are positive, you can take your skills and fit them into any industry, it’s all about attitude,” says Salt.

The interconnection of constant data streams and emerging markets is what Salt believes will create an endless source of opportunities, particularly for those who are “up for” the emerging challenges.

“What is going to be the new mining boom of the future? I say it’s technology,” Salt enthuses. “Technology, business creativity and entrepreneurialism, that’s where our prosperity and future lies.”


Idea in brief

  • Technology can deliver the businesses and jobs of the future, says leading demographer Bernard Salt
  • Think fluid, flexible, mobile, agile, social, innovative
  • At the heart is the “internet of everything” – networked connections of people, data, processes, devices and applications
  • This digital revolution is spurring new industries and reinvigorating old ones
  • Innovation happens where information flows and emerging markets intersect
2 min

Digital Transformation through Dynamic Networks



Digital Transformation through Dynamic Networks

ARA, safety services and building products specialist, relies on a unique model to keep it ahead of the pack.

No matter where you live or work in Australia, there’s a pretty good chance ARA has helped to keep you safe. Every day the company assigns up to 7000 jobs to its 1200-strong team of fire protection and security technicians, electricians, mechanical engineers, fitters and turners.


Like many mid-sized operations, the company has grown largely through acquisition, as founder Ed Federman saw and seized opportunities as parallel companies came onto the market.

“Within the first year we actually had established the five platforms that we currently have,” explains Federman. “We had bought a manufacturing business, we had bought an electrical business, we had bought a security business and we had bought a fire protection business.”

The challenge however, lay in finding ways to bring all these different businesses into a single operation, to have a positive impact on back-office productivity.

“One of the goals I had right from the beginning was for us to use technology for our service,” says Federman. “I wanted to be principally a service company as opposed to an installation company and I believed that technology was essential to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.”

According to Christopher Smith, Telstra Managed Network Services Director, Telstra’s Dynamic Network caters precisely to businesses such as ARA, with fluctuating requirements.

“We spend a lot of time understanding what’s changed in our customers, where they’re living and working, have they bought organisations, sold organisations, have they scaled up, scaled down and how can they take advantage of advanced dynamic networking,” Smith explains. “Well that’s actually driving a really dynamic network requirement, the fact that businesses change, and the need to deliver flexible working arrangements, agile management practices, better customer service and improved profitability.”

For ARA the shift to Telstra’s Dynamic Network has helped transform a collection of businesses into an agile yet centrally administered company.

“Dynamic networks offer a software layer which provides customers with a ubiquitous view of all the technology across the network, making it more flexible and easier to manage, ” says Smith. “So our customers can focus on actually running their businesses and not get held up by technical details.”

The ARA networks has made it possible for the company to deliver on stringent service level agreements that require responses within just 45 minutes, supported regular communication through video conferencing, and hosted centralised accounting, workflow and administration services.

Join ARA Group managing director Ed Federman, and co-founder and managing director of ARA as he explains how dynamic networks have helped ARA become a single company rather than a collection of businesses.

ARA Security is passionate about technology and the wellbeing of our staff and clients alike. We rely on best-of-breed technologies to deliver a safer system of work and a safer mechanism of service offerings

Discover how Dynamic Networks will set your business free to adapt to changing demands.


Telstra’s Dynamic Network ensures that we will be communicating on a real-time basis with our customers and with the people that need our services.

We service buildings and infrastructure for essential services, electrical, fire protection, security, mechanical services, we still manufacture products here as well, so we are a diverse company and we do a lot of different things.

In today’s world, people want service and they want it now. We have to have a dynamic network that works, that’s reliable and makes our business go.

As we’ve grown the business over the last 14 years, we have been a very decentralised company and we’ve had to figure out a way to become one company.

The steps we’ve taken with Telstra to have a dynamic network, to have Office 365, to have Sharepoint, has helped to make us a company, not a collection of businesses.

1 min

Read my lips: Five things you have to be able to say in business, and how to say them so that people pay attention



Read my lips: Five things you have to be able to say in business, and how to say them so that people pay attention

Strong leadership is about more than giving direction – it’s about asking the right questions and listening to the right people.

Business leaders make plenty of mistakes on their way up the corporate ladder, and one of the most common is not thinking through the message they’re sending.


More than simply entering a room and giving direction, it’s crucial to know who you’re talking to, how you can best deliver the message and, most importantly, when to listen.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to effective corporate communications, says Nicole Cullen, founder and director at Cullaborate.

The biggest mistake that leaders make is failing to give adequate consideration to the message they want to communicate and the best way to communicate it

Communication issues often result from problems with individual performance or organisational culture, adds Stephanie Thompson, principal at Insight Matters Corporate Psychology and Coaching.

Here are the five most powerful phrases great leaders use:

1. “What do you need from me to get this done?”

Effective communication is a process of consultation or negotiation, says Thompson. By framing the question like this you also avoid subtly stressful phrases such as “you need to…” or “you have to…” she adds.

2. “What else could you try?”

“Encourage people to be forthright,” says Cullen. By asking positive, open-ended questions such as this one, people will feel supported to speak up, resulting in a more engaged workforce and allowing all options to be explored.

3. “Can we make this more efficient?”

In the office environment, this question is particularly pertinent to emails. Before you send an email, consider who needs to be copied in, as well as whether a phone call or face-to-face conversation could be more effective.

4. “We need to make a change”

Workplace change frightens people, says Cullen, because of the uncertainty of job losses and organisational restructuring. “Get straight to the point when delivering bad or unsettling news, and don’t try to sugar coat the situation – rather, acknowledge the gravity of the news,” she says.

5. “You feel …”

One of the most effective communication tools any senior executive needs is the ability to listen actively and reflect it back to the speaker to demonstrate empathy and clarity. “Listening must be authentic, meaning that others’ concerns or alternative proposals are given adequate air time and genuine consideration,” says Thompson.

white paper
3 min

A flexible office stands on three pillars



A flexible office stands on three pillars

Business researcher Stuart Kirkby has uncovered three essential ingredients that are key to the adoption of transformational business practices.

In his whitepaper, Business without Borders, Stuart Kirkby has highlighted the challenges and opportunities of business transformation. In this exclusive interview IN:SIGHT took a deep dive into the issues Kirkby has uncovered through his research and the opportunities lost when business fails to integrate technology, people and office spaces into a single plan of attack.


IN:SIGHT: Stuart, thanks for joining us – you’ve recently published a whitepaper looking into the way we work – can you tell us a little bit about it?

Stuart Kirkby: Sure, yes. The objective was to establish a baseline of the key areas that influence the way we work today – namely people themselves, the places they work and the tools they work with. What we found is that siloed investments often result in disappointment – but the problem usually isn’t about the technology, it’s about whether or not staff are actually empowered to use the technology to make productivity gains.

IN:SIGHT: So why do so many businesses miss out on the benefits of technology?

Stuart Kirkby: Some people work one way, others work another way, and we all use the tools we are given in different ways or not at all, especially if we don’t really understand why we were given them in the first place.

What the whitepaper does is illustrate the three pillars that need to be considered within organisations in order to achieve tangible positive outcomes from their investments in improvement. It’s not about taking the old stuff and giving it a different point of view, it’s about getting deep inside the organisation and creating an approach which will ensure technology becomes part of on overall solution.


IN:SIGHT: Technology is one pillar, if you like, what are the other two?

Stuart Kirkby: The three pillars are people, workplace and technology. The research we’ve been working on, that’s been published in the Business without Borders whitepaper, is all about how these three pillars might interact more cohesively so that businesses can respond to some of the very large-scale trends which are looming across the economy, at the same time as delivering tangible improvements to their business.

IN:SIGHT: Can you give us an example of how these pillars are supposed to work together?

Stuart Kirkby: Sure. Workplaces are quite hierarchical, you know, the CEO’s office is on the top floor, the office space is organised into different divisions, there is a desk set aside for every person, even if they only spend 50 or 60 percent of their time there.

Suppose you introduce just a facelift and a bit of hot desking into this environment? All you’re going to do is annoy people because they haven’t got a stable place to work, but they’re still going to sit near their managers, and they are still going to come in every day.

Or suppose you introduce a unified communications system, but you don’t retrain your managers to encourage people to work remotely, so now you’ve got a failed IT implementation, failed activity-based workplace and a bunch of annoyed staff that don’t want to do what you tell them to.

This is where things all go wrong. The three pillars technology, people and workplace have to all form a part of any productivity initiative if it’s going to deliver real productivity outcomes.


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IN:SIGHT: OK, so can you give me an example of what happens when it all goes right?

Stuart Kirkby: Rather than a siloed workplace you create an activity-based work environment, where you might have areas for group working, quiet areas where people can focus in on what they’re doing, areas for phone calls, brainstorming – basically design the space around the activity. At the same time, really make it possible for staff to work remotely, and tracking what they do using goal-based management not desk based management.

The technology becomes the glue that binds it altogether. It enables people to engage more consistently and collaborate with people from across the company. The organisation operates with smaller offices, more flexibility, more highly engaged and happier staff because they’re spending less time travelling and more time actually achieving outcomes.

IN:SIGHT: Less time wasted in traffic?

Stuart Kirkby: Not only wasting less time in traffic, but there are numerous studies pointing to the fact that employees are happier in more flexible working arrangements, and happier staff are more productive staff. They enjoy their job, they’re more likely to stay. But also your offices are smaller, and your costs are reduced. The gains you can make by adopting a comprehensive approach to this are significant. But you need to invest in all three pillars, you can’t just focus on one or two and forget the third.

IN:SIGHT: OK, but why should leaders be thinking about this now, the technology has been there for a while, the idea of flexible working has been around for a while, what’s the imperative?

Stuart Kirkby: We’re now looking at flexible workplaces and productivity gains that make a significant impact on your costs, and on your capacity to attract the best staff. If you’re not reducing your costs, and if you’re not getting the best employees and keeping them engaged, your competitors are, or they will be soon. Smaller offices, targeted technology, less requirement to be in the office, more autonomy, goal-based management, – the combined benefits are irrefutable, and the whitepaper basically covers how to get there.

IN:SIGHT: Stuart, thanks for joining us on IN:SIGHT.

Stuart Kirkby: Thank you.


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